Amer­i­can At­tacks on Syria

Alive - - Contents - Ap­pre­hen­sions of the Third World War! ■ by Satish Ku­mar

Af­ter the at­tack now the blame game started be­tween Amer­ica and Rus­sia. The US ac­cused Rus­sia of block­ing in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors from reach­ing the site of a sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack in Syria and said Rus­sia and Syria have tam­pered with ev­i­dence. Moscow de­nied the charge and blamed the US for at­tack on Syria. Last week the US along with Bri­tain and France at­tacked Syria. The rea­sons of at­tack was to de­ter the Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons stocks. The United States dealt a se­vere blow to the heart of its chem­i­cal weapons in­fra­struc­ture. The US and west­ern al­lies have ac­cused Syria’s Bashar-al-As­sad of or­der­ing a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack on a re­bel­held town Douma, just out­side Da­m­as­cus that killed 40 peo­ple. They have al­leged the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment used chlo­rine gas in the at­tack, and pos­si­bly others.

An emer­gency meet­ing of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil called by Rus­sia to con­demn the al­lied ac­tion. Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Trump had called the chem­i­cal weapon at­tack “crimes of a mon­ster”. Mis­sion ac­com­plished, he wrote on Twit­ter. Syria’s chief al­lies, Rus­sia and Iran, called the use of force by the United States, Bri­tain and France “a mil­i­tary crime” and “act of ag­gres­sion” with the po­ten­tial to worsen a humanitarian cri­sis af­ter years of civil war. De­fence Sec­re­tary of Amer­ica James Mat­tis said the strikes were a ‘One time shot”. But more could fol­low if there were more chem­i­cal weapon at­tacks. The Unites States had first struck Syria in April, 2017. This con­flict which was gen­er­ated from civil war in Syria is heat­ing up the Third World War. The Rus­sian de­fence ex­perts have cau­tioned the world to get ready for the Third World War. The US and West laughed at this ex­po­si­tion. Nev­er­the­less, the world is di­vided. Rus­sia along with Iran has sup­port of China and some of the Mid­dle East coun­tries.

Background

More than 25,000 Syr­i­ans have lost their lives in four and half years of armed con­flict, which be­gan with anti-gov­ern­ment protests be­fore es­ca­lat­ing into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 mil­lion others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to Pres­i­dent al-As­sad and those op­posed to his rule bat­tle each other- as well as ji­hadist mil­i­tants from so­called Is­lamic State. Prodemoc­racy protests erupted in March 2011 in the south­ern city of Deraa af­ter the ar­rest and tor­ture of some teenagers who painted rev­o­lu­tion­ary slo­gans on a school wall. Af­ter se­cu­rity forces opened fire on de­mon­stra­tors, killing sev­eral, more took to the streets. The un­rest trig­gered na­tion­wide protests de­mand­ing Pres­i­dent As­sad’s res­ig­na­tion. Now the con­flict is more than just a bat­tle be­tween those for or against As­sad. It has

ac­quired sec­tar­ian over­tones, pitch­ing the coun­try’s Sunni ma­jor­ity against the Syr­ian pres­i­dent’s Shia Alaw­ite sect, and drawn in re­gional and world pow­ers. The rise of the Ji­hadist group Is­lamic State has added a fur­ther di­men­sion.

The con­flict in Syria has drawn in ma­jor global pow­ers, sup­port­ing and op­pos­ing pres­i­dent Basharal As­sad and the myr­iad rebel groups raged against him. World pow­ers meet­ing in Vi­enna agreed to a nine­point plan they hope would pave the way for a cease­fire in Syria-but they re­main di­vided on what hap­pens to Pres­i­dent As­sad. Rus­sia is one of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional back­ers and the sur­vival of the regime is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing Rus­sian in­ter­ests in the coun­try. It has blocked res­o­lu­tions crit­i­cal of As­sad at the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and has con­tin­ued to sup­ply weapons to the Syr­ian port of Tar­tous, which serves as Rus­sia’s Syr­ian mil­i­tary de­spite in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism.

New Cold War

The post-cold war pe­riod led to the mas­sive diplo­matic hu­mil­i­a­tion of Rus­sia. One af­ter an­other at­tempt was be­ing made by the US to en­cir­cle Rus­sia through NATO. Rus­sian econ­omy was in bad shape af­ter the Cold War.Rus­sia is far short of the mil­i­tary strength it en­joyed as part of the Soviet Union. In al­most ev­ery area other than nu­clear weapons, Rus­sia is heav­ily out­num­bered in terms of de­fence spend­ing and equip­ment com­pared with the US.The US spends about $550bn an­nu­ally on de­fence com­pared with Rus­sia’s $70bn. To take just one in­di­ca­tor, Rus­sia has

The con­flict in Syria has drawn in ma­jor global pow­ers, sup­port­ing and op­pos­ing pres­i­dent Bashar-al As­sad and the myr­iad rebel groups raged against him. World pow­ers meet­ing in Vi­enna agreed to a nine-point plan they hope would pave the way for a cease­fire in Syria-but they re­main di­vided on what hap­pens to Pres­i­dent As­sad. Rus­sia is one of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad’s most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional back­ers and the sur­vival of the regime is crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing Rus­sian in­ter­ests in the coun­try.

one age­ing air­craft car­rier while the US has 20.Today’s Rus­sia isn’t the ma­jor mil­i­tary force that the

Soviet Union once was.

But since the Vladimir Putin took the com­mand of Rus­sia, he re­ju­ve­nated with much vaulted na­tion­al­ism. Now Rus­sia is not the exSoviet Union in terms of mil­i­tary power but nei­ther it is frag­mented Rus­sia of 1990s. It has gained and will­ing to play a larger role in the world pol­i­tics. Its mil­i­tary ex­pen­di­ture is in­creas­ing. It comes in as the third largest spender in the world, but that’s ac­tu­ally not as im­pres­sive as it sounds. In 2016, the United States was re­spon­si­ble for 36 per­cent of to­tal global mil­i­tary spend­ing. China was num­ber two at 13 per­cent. And Rus­sia man­aged a mere 4.1 per­cent, just a nose ahead of Saudi Ara­bia.

Vladimir Putin has not only em­barked on a se­ri­ous mod­erni­sa­tion of the Rus­sian mil­i­tary — be­gun in 2011 at an es­ti­mated price tag of $670 bil­lion and in­clud­ing $28 bil­lion by 2020 to up­grade the nu­clear triad — but con­sid­ers mil­i­tary force to be a key ele­ment of state­craft. The seizure of Crimea and the war in east­ern Ukraine il­lus­trate the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of diplo­macy and mil­i­tary in Putin’s think­ing, while mil­i­tary force has positioned Rus­sia as a player in the Syria con­flict where it can now as­sert its vaunted diplo­matic role.Rus­sia can­not hope to achieve “full-spec­trum dom­i­nance” world­wide. But it can cer­tainly con­trol its “near abroad” and play a spoiler role else­where.The US is also speed­ing up nu­clear ar­se­nals. Trump called for a mas­sive in­crease in the U.S. nu­clear arse­nal.

There are many rea­sons for Rus­sia to be anti West. One is the quest for pres­tige. What did Amer­ica do in Yu­goslavia? Boris Yeltsin was pained and Rus­sia was re­peat­edly hu­mil­i­ated by the west­ern pow­ers. NATO’s airstrikes in the former Yu­goslavia was abide to use its un­ri­valled power to re­shape the world through a se­lec­tive moral­ity. Rus­sia has lost the clout and stand­ing the Soviet Union had in world pol­i­tics. The na­tion­al­ist Vladimir Putin wants to es­tab­lish his coun­try’s sta­tus as a great power. The Syr­ian war is an op­por­tu­nity to show that Rus­sia does mat­ter and must be taken se­ri­ously. An­other mo­tive that moves Moscow’s Syria pol­icy is pre­vent­ing the rise of a rad­i­cal Is­lamist regime, which is what the Rus­sia lead­er­ship fears will hap­pen if As­sad fails.

Dif­fer­ent Groups

It is ob­vi­ously clear that none of the forces in Syria are in com­plete con­trol of its ter­ri­tory. The hold is frag­mented. There are many masters. But As­sad regime has gained con­trol from the rebels in the last two years with the help of Rus­sia and Iran. The main cities un­der gov­ern­ment con­trol are Da­m­as­cus, Homs, Aleppo, Tat­tus, Palmyra and Albu Ka­mal. The Free Syr­ian Army is a loose con­glom­er­a­tion of armed bri­gades formed in 2011 by de­fec­tors from the Syr­ian army and civil­ian aim­ing to top­ple Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad. Since the bat­tle of Aleppo, the FSA has re­mained in con­trol of lim­ited ar­eas in north­west­ern Syria. The main area which has its hold is Idlib prov­ince. The IS con­trols near the area of Albu Ka­mal, sur­rounded by gov­ern­ment forces west­ward and Kur­dish forces in the east. The US forces which had lib­er­ated the ar­eas from rebels are

un­will­ing to han­dover to As­sad Regime. The US ob­jec­tive is to re­move the pres­i­dent As­sad.

In­di­aʼs Stand

In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy in Syria is con­nected with its larger Mid­dle East un­der­stand­ing. In­dia’s tacit sup­port to As­sad regime is driven by two fac­tors. The first is its fears of in­sta­bil­ity and the rise of Is­lamists as it hap­pened in post Gaddafi Libya. The sec­ond is its com­mit­ment to non­in­ter­ven­tion­ism, a po­si­tion shared by mem­bers of the BRICS coun­tries that have re­frained from a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion against the regime. The Baath Party’s con­tin­ued pro-In­dia stance on the Kash­mir is­sue pushes In­dia to take a po­si­tion on the Syr­ian cri­sis that seems to favour the As­sad regime. Given that In­dia has ab­stained from most UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions on Syria. How­ever, this fea­ture of In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy has not af­fected its ties with the re­gional pow­ers in the Arab world, such as the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia, which have pur­sued di­ver­gent re­gional in­ter­ests.

More­over, at the mo­ment, Syria is an in­signif­i­cant source of oil for In­dia. This sug­gests that In­dian in­ter­ests in the Mid­dle East­ern states are not driven solely by its aim to achieve en­ergy se­cu­rity.

The Baath Party’s con­tin­ued proIn­dia stance on the Kash­mir is­sue pushes In­dia to take a po­si­tion on the Syr­ian cri­sis that seems to favour the As­sad regime. Given that In­dia has ab­stained from most UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions on Syria. How­ever, this fea­ture of In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy has not af­fected its ties with the re­gional pow­ers in the Arab world, such as the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia, which have pur­sued di­ver­gent re­gional in­ter­ests.

In­dia sup­ports an al­in­clu­sive Syr­ian-led process to chart out the fu­ture of Syria, its po­lit­i­cal struc­tures and lead­er­ship. New Delhi prefers sta­bil­ity over in­sta­bil­ity. The rise of Is­lamic fac­tions. This fear is mag­ni­fied by the fact that Is­lamic ex­trem­ists are

The US sup­ports Syria’s main op­po­si­tion al­liance, the Na­tional Coali­tion, and pro­vides lim­ited mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to mod­er­ate rebels. Riyadh is a ma­jor provider of mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to sev­eral rebel groups, in­clud­ing those with Is­lamist ide­olo­gies. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has been a staunch critic of As­sad since the start of the up­ris­ing in Syria. Turkey is a key sup­porter of the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion and has faced the bur­den of host­ing al­most two mil­lion refugees.

in­tend­ing to find a new haven in Afghanistan, which hap­pens to be piv­otal for In­dia’s in­ter­ests in

South Asia. Since IS has ex­panded its reach to Bangladesh and Pak­istan. It has splin­tered of sup­ports from the dif­fer­ent states of In­dia, es­pe­cially Ker­ala. The sec­ond factor comes from the as­ser­tion that In­dia shares a con­sol­i­dated opin­ion with other BRICS states on the ques­tion of in­ter­ven­tion. The BRICS states have ques­tioned the UNSC’s authority to in­ter­vene on humanitarian grounds. It is based on the logic of non­in­ter­ven­tion­ism.Af­ter the US at­tack on Syria, In­dia cau­tioned for peace and di­a­logue. It also ad­vo­cated for UN in­ter­ven­tion.

Ex­ter­nal Pow­ers

The ma­jor con­cern is di­ver­gence of view of Amer­ica. The US stepped in to elim­i­nate ISIS in Syria. Later on it changed its pri­or­ity to top­ple As­sad then dis­man­tled the IS. The change of pref­er­ence dis­turbed the ap­ple cart in Syria. On the other hand, Moscow wants to pro­tect a key naval fa­cil­ity which it leases at the Syr­ian port of Tar­tous, which serves Rus­sia’s sole Mediter­ranean base for its Black Sea fleet, and has forces at an air base in Latakia, Pres­i­dent

As­sad’s Shia Alaw­ite heart­land. In Septem­ber 2015 Rus­sia be­gan launch­ing air strikes against rebels. The US sup­ports Syria’s main op­po­si­tion al­liance, the Na­tional Coali­tion, and pro­vides lim­ited mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to mod­er­ate rebels. Riyadh is a ma­jor provider of mil­i­tary and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to sev­eral rebel groups, in­clud­ing those with Is­lamist ide­olo­gies.

The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment has been a staunch critic of As­sad since the start of the up­ris­ing in Syria. Turkey is a key sup­porter of the

Syr­ian op­po­si­tion and has faced the bur­den of host­ing al­most two mil­lion refugees. Turkey agreed to let the US led coali­tion against IS to use its air bases for strikes on Syria.

As­sad is Iran’s clos­est Arab ally and Syria is the main tran­sit point for Ira­nian weapons ship­ments to the Le­banese Shia Is­lamist move­ment, Hezbol­lah. Iran is also be­lieved to have been in­flu­en­tial in Hezbol­lah’s de­ci­sion to send fighters to west­ern Syria to as­sist proAs­sad forces.

Now things are mov­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Rus­sia and Amer­ica are once again pitch­ing against each other on ev­ery is­sue. China is cat­e­gor­i­cally with Rus­sia. Syria is a flash point which is con­nect­ing the ma­jor pow­ers into two dif­fer­ent poles. If Amer­ica re­mained dog­matic and con­tinue to at­tack As­sad regime, it might es­ca­late to di­rect con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia. The spy case of Lon­don has bat­tered the con­di­tions be­tween the two. The need is to pause and think about it be­fore shoot­ing the mis­siles.

The ri­valiry be­tween the US and Rus­sia is ev­i­dent in Syria.

Smoke rises from the be­sieged east­ern Ghouta re­gion of Syria.

Amer­i­cans protest­ing against bomb­ing by their own coun­try US in Syria in front of the White House.

Men waiv­ing the Syr­ian flag as they drive a mo­tor­cy­cle in a street in the East­ern Ghouta town of Douma af­ter Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces en­tered the last rebel bas­tion.

A Syr­ian man car­ries an in­fant res­cued from the rub­ble of build­ings fol­low­ing

gov­ern­ment bomb­ing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, Syria.

A scene show­ing sev­eral de­stroyed build­ings in Douma.

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